The answer to this question is yes, but how do you do it and what, if any are the benefits?
Slide shows are a modern innovation. Overhead projectors only went mainstream in the 1980’s, 35mm slides a few years later and data projectors after the turn of the century. One would think that these technological advancements would result in dazzling improvements in presentations. Alas, this is so only occasionally. When used with skill, well thought out visuals can beautifully compliment a presentation leading to the desired outcome. More often than not though, visuals are used poorly with little thought to the overall effect resulting in confusion, a garbled message and no outcome. We’ve all been thus victimised, and sadly some of us have been the perpetrators!
Therefore, if you do not have the time, knowledge, creativity and resources to put together visuals that will compliment your brand and your message it is better to use no visuals at all. The main reason is that poor visuals will actually detract from your message. But does having no visuals leave one at a disadvantage? Well, not actually! What did we do 50 years ago?
For centuries our ancestors have told stories, related information and kept audiences riveted by using the power of the spoken word. These words can be particularly powerful when delivered with feeling and sincerity. Many a general has motivated his troops to victory on the battlefield with powerful oratory. Pastors guide their flocks with compelling parables, and parents all over the world use fairytales to send their toddlers off to dreamland.
When written, words are at their best in a great article or penned in a good book. Words seem to lack the same power when they’re crowded on to a slide show where they may create confusion and detract from the speech. They also split the listener’s attention in 2 since they can’t look at the slide and the speaker simultaneously, and presenters seldom read their text at the same pace that you’re reading it!
Herein lies the power of the speaker without visuals. The attention of the audience is fully on her. There is no other visual distraction since the attention is on her only. She can focus on her message and voice quality using nuance, emphasis and intonation without distraction, her eyes glued on her audience. With her hands free of a remote mouse she can use sweeping gestures more freely, making fluid movements whilst she carries her audience along with her.
Good orators can keep their audiences riveted for hours, without slides or props and I’ve seen it often. Perhaps the two most critical factors here are that the speaker knows her topic well and has taken the time to prepare exactly what she’s going to share in the allotted time. Case studies, stories and humour are powerful ways of adding richness to a presentation and spice up the message.
Imagine if you had prepared visuals and then technology failed completely? You’d be presenting without visuals anyway! You should be equipped to complete your presentation in the absence of your visuals – a key skill differentiates presenters.
Finally a word of caution. Some speakers have an accent that is unfamiliar to their audience for whatever reason. So if you’re speaking to an audience who may not be catching every word clearly, it does help to put key words on to visuals. This of course must be planned in advance. So like so many things in life, one adjusts to the prevailing circumstances.